Hands up who pretty much gave up on trying to keep their house clean and tidy over the summer holidays? I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s not like my house was filthy, but tidying up & keeping everywhere clean when you have three kids at home for six weeks is like playing darts with spaghetti – it just feels completely pointless. I reached a point where I decided I was better off just trying to keep on top of it as best I could but trying not to worry about it till September when I would have the space and time to give everywhere a proper going over. I think possibly the biggest stroke of genius was booking the guys from Fantastic Services in for a full house clean the day after the kids went back to school and I would, without a shadow of a doubt, plan to do this again each September now!
There’s no doubt that pressure washing the drive is a satisfying job to do but it’s also messy and hard work. The last time I did our drive I was pregnant with Ben so we’re talking somewhere in the region of nine years ago . . . I remember being surprised to discover that my drive wasn’t actually all one colour and in fact, underneath all the dirt and grime, there was a pattern of pink and grey block work!
Fast forward almost a decade and there was definitely no visible pattern on my drive – our block work has actually been completely relayed after several years of building work but it remained filthy. At the front of the house it was just grubby from years of use and of course being a building site, whereas at the back of the house it was green and mossy. This is an issue every year – I’ve tried weed killer, washing powder and scrubbing brushes, but it remains resolutely green & slippy. We did borrow a pressure washer from my Dad a couple of years ago only to discover that our kitchen tap was a funny shape and we couldn’t attach the hose to it. Our outside tap had been disconnected years before due to pure water pressure (though sorting this out is on Dave’s never-ending to do list!) It’s one of those jobs that has just been left – it was too much hassle to actually sort it out and not really at the top of my priorities list.
I was more than happy to hand the task of pressure washing our drive to Fantastic Services – I actually asked them to do all the block work at the front of the house, down the side and also into the back as well as the concrete panels at the bottom of our fences. I was particularly keen to have them clean these at the back of the house as my neighbour is very sloppy with his paint work and over the years has dripped white paint and fence stain down our side of the fence (literally every single time he paints) – which whilst annoying is easily rectified by painting over it however the concrete panels are a difference matter and the unsightly spillages really get my back up!! My Dad had previously suggested that pressure washing should clean most of it off so I was excited to see what a difference the team at Fantastic Services could make.
The guys from Fantastic Services arrived bob on 9am as booked and were quick to get started. I showed them a choice of taps in our kitchen, utility and downstairs toilet but was told that they wouldn’t be able to use any of them – I panicked that the appointment had been a waste of time and that they wouldn’t be able to complete the job after all. As it turned out, in the absence of an appropriate tap, they just pulled out the dishwasher and fastened their equipment on there instead! Once they had their equipment set up I showed them what needed cleaning (as per my booking) and left them to it. The service took 4 hours in total – 4 hours which I spent working quietly in the house, 4 hours where I didn’t have to get filthy or break my back cleaning my driveway!
Pressure washing requires no detergent, the cleaning is done purely through the force of water hitting your driveway – it’s a filthy job as the muck is lifted from your path or fences and moved towards a drain. As such this means that in the process of cleaning your driveway or patio or whatever else you are cleaning, other things are likely to get dirty. I’m pleased to say that as much as possible the team from Fantastic Services cleaned up after themselves – cleaning my windows, wiping down the front and back doors and anywhere else that had got covered in general filth as they were working. That said, my fences, garage doors and walls were left with a fine coat of muck – this is something which is easily dealt with by brushing it once it was dry – something the guys from Fantastic Services wouldn’t have been able to do whilst it was still wet without just smearing it everywhere! The lawn also ended up pretty dirty as a result of a slow drain but this will sort itself out.
I couldn’t believe the difference – my drive was once again pink and clean and those concrete fence panels? Well they are by no means perfect but the difference is immense and I can’t stop looking out of the kitchen window at them! If I’m honest now that everything has dried, I think there are bits that would benefit from another going over – particularly the bottom of the fences or the back of the house where it was especially dirty and difficult to drain but realistically there are 100 times better than they were before. Unfortunately my garage doors have suffered at the hands of the pressure washer and some of the paint has been removed so they will have to be repainted this summer, some sections of fencing will also need re-staining where they’ve been caught by the water as you can see in the pictures. Pressure washing block work does remove all the sand between the blocks so it’s important that once everything is dry, you replace this with kiln dried sand (it fills in the gaps, keeping the blocks stable but still allowing for drainage) – this is top of our to do list over the coming week while the weather is still good
The cost of the pressure washing service from Fantastic Services was £138 and yes, I guess I could have invested that in a pressure washer and done it myself but honestly? Having someone else do it was just so much easier.
*The pressure washing service from Fantastic Services was provided free of charge as part of my ambassador role. This post contains affiliate links which means if you do book a service I might earn a small discount off my next service at no extra cost to you*
With an ever increasing focus on the need to reduce plastic waste, as a family we are keen to eradicate as much single use plastic from our home as possible. This is an ongoing process and, needless to say, we are learning as we go. Of course one way to do this is to use reusable drinks bottles when we are out and about. This is something I’ve previously been quite slack about, preferring to buy drinks as we need them over remembering to fill up and cart around enough bottles for the whole family. However this is clearly wasteful – both in an environmental and financial sense. As I say, we are learning as we go!
One of my biggest issues with carrying bottles around is that they tend to take up too much room in my bag and there is always the risk of them leaking. The kids have bottles which they take to school (if they remember) and Dave & I both have Klean Kanteen bottles which we use for hot drinks – particularly when we’re camping or Dave uses his to take coffee to work. But they are sizeable and fairly weighty – I certainly wouldn’t want to lug one around in my handbag all day.
We’ve recently been introduced to the Ion8 range -specifically the 100% leak proof kids water bottle, the Ion8 Pod. The Ion8 Pod is a 350ml size making it ideal for children – fitting perfectly into school lunch boxes or backpacks. Having to carry their bottles is probably the single biggest reason why my children often “forget” to take theirs or bring them home again from school. If they were safely tucked inside their school bag this would be a different matter entirely!
My favourite design feature of the Ion8 Pod is that it is the same width as a standard soft drinks can which means it will fit all standard cup and can holders – a bit of a game changer in the car where lots of the other bottles we have tried just don’t fit comfortably (something I have previously tested by spilling hot chocolate all over the foot-well of my car whilst turning a corner . . . ) It is worth mentioning that the larger 500ml Ion8 Slim is also the same width so if you need a larger drink, you don’t have to compromise on being able to fit your bottle into a cup holder.
Whilst the Ion8 Pod is marketed as a kids’ water bottle, I think the smaller size makes it perfect for popping in your handbag when you’re out and about – you know I’m fully lusting after a navy one for myself right? I’ve said before that I’m practically a camel and rarely drink enough so having a smaller sized bottle in my bag might finally solve this problem!
All three kids love the Ion8 Pod – the easy to open flip top and the smooth liquid flow make it easy to drink from – there’s no need to worry about sucking or holding it at the right angle as can often be the case with some bottles. The lockable flip top lid means that the drink spout itself remains clean (as opposed to the kids’ current bottles which just have a twist up spout). Thanks to the wide neck, the bottle is simple to fill – you can even pop ice in on a hot day which I know Ben will love for school! The bottle is actually suitable for both hot and cold drinks which I must admit really surprised me – I don’t know that I would naturally use it for hotter drinks but it’s nice to know the option is there. It might seem a little odd to talk about the texture of the bottle, but actually it makes quite a big difference, the soft feel makes it easy to hold and also just looks far nicer. The carry strap is a bit of a bonus as carrying a drink bottle around in your hand is never going to be comfortable for long. I was also pleased to discover that I can pop the ion8 drink bottle into the dishwasher (something which I can’t do with our Klean Kanteens annoyingly!)
So all in we love the Ion8 Pod, my only problem with it is that we only have one! I think I’d better invest in some more.
*We were sent the Ion8 Pod free of charge for the purposes of review. All thoughts and opinions remain my own. This post contains affiliate links*
It’s been a while, but the Cocoon: Smart Home Security Camera review is a bit of a techy one so I’m handing over to Dave:
I’m very home security conscious. I go round every night making sure that all the doors are locked and windows are shut properly. When I’m away I worry that Colette will forget these things and we’ll be burgled. I have to fight the urge to text her and ask every single time I’m away. No joke. I’m also interested in tech. No joke. So when the chance came to review a tech based home security product I was all too keen to get involved.
The Cocoon smart home security camera is a tennis ball sized camera that sits in one corner of your house and with the hope of providing you with peace of mind when you’re out. The camera connects to your WiFi network and you can interact with it via an app. The app lets you watch what the camera can see at any point just by opening it. The app also lets you set up profiles for anyone who has a smart phone and will be in your house regularly. As people with profiles leave your house the camera knows, because they’re no longer connected to the WiFi, so it arms itself. If the camera detects something while you’re out then you get a notification and you can watch a video of your house to see if you should be bothered. Pretty good so far.
You might think one camera can only provide you with protection for one or two rooms of your house depending on how you position it. To get round this the Cocoon smart camera uses ‘subsound’ technology. What this means in essence, I think, is the camera listens to your house and analyses the sounds. If it hears something out of the ordinary then it lets you know and you can decide whether to set the alarm off or not.
Setting up the camera through the app is painless. Create an account. Add WiFi password. Add other members of family with phones and you’re away. As this is a ‘smart’ device it tells you that in the first few weeks you will get false alarms. These are a part of the learning process. You telling the camera that what it heard is fine allows the camera to adjust itself to the unique noises of your home. And false alarms you will get. When one of these comes in you have the choice to watch the video its recording. There’s two options then, tell Cocoon everything is alright or sound an alarm. If you sound the alarm it’s pretty loud. I’m quite confident that if anyone was in your house and you set this off they’d shift pretty quickly (that sentence also works if you remove the ‘f’ from ‘shift’).
A problem we both encountered with this system is that showing a video feed requires a decent internet connection. When I’m at work the reception can be a bit hit and miss. Sometimes I’d get a notification and try to watch the video. It would buffer for a minute until the video ended, then the notification would disappear. You can’t go back and re-watch it after the fact to train it when you’ve got a better connection. While it’s buffering you still have the option to tell Cocoon everything is alright, or set off the alarm, but if you can’t watch the video then it seems a little pointless. As it won’t be learning correctly and you don’t actually know if everything is alright.
We’ve been using the Cocoon for about eight weeks now and here are my thoughts. In practice our Cocoon gave us false alarms all the time. It did get better after the first few days but goes through phases of constant false alarms which we had expected would have passed by now. I had to switch my phone to silent while in work because I was consistently getting notifications, which other people in my office were commenting on. While away for the weekend both Colette and I ‘disarmed’ the camera remotely, using the app, to stop the constant notifications which of course defeats the object. The camera forgot who I was meaning that I would set it off whilst in the house on my own because Colette had gone out so the camera had ‘armed’ itself. Whilst doing DIY I could stop and watch little videos of myself sawing or painting while the Cocoon panicked that I was an intruder. To combat this I reset the camera, I reset the app, I re-did my profile and reconnected to the camera. Each time the camera would forget me again, I don’t know why. The camera never forgot Colette though – maybe she’s more memorable than me? I don’t know.
The idea for the Cocoon smart security camera is good. It looks good, it’s unobtrusive (so I don’t think you’d necessarily notice it if you were breaking into someone’s house), the set up is easy and the app works well, when you’ve got a decent internet connection. The video quality is good, which would aid in the identification of any robber who was caught by the camera, and as I said if you put that alarm on then it is loud. The only thing which doesn’t seem to work is the ‘smart’ part of the camera. Ours learned but not to the extent we had hoped and returned false alarm after false alarm over the whole eight weeks – perhaps we just live in a really noisy area? It can be pretty frustrating having to take your phone out of your pocket for the fiftieth time to tell Cocoon that everything was alright. And for us that’s the deal breaker – whilst we love the idea of being able to see what’s going on in the house when we’re not there, the constant false alarms are just too much for us. I’d be interested in seeing the next version of this product to see if it actually learns. If it does then we’ll be interested.
So all in, the Cocoon smart home security camera is a great idea, but we just haven’t been able to trust it and rather than thinking “Oh heck what’s going on in the house” it has tended to be more of a “God there’s another Cocoon notification, turn the damn thing off.” For us I can see the Cocoon being really handy as the kids get older and we want to know that perhaps they’ve got home from school ok – but I would definitely do this by just watching the app rather than having the Cocoon armed and notifying me!
*We received the Cocoon smart home security camera free of charge for the purpose of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*
Hi, my name is Colette and I’m addicted to my vacuum cleaner . . .
I’ve wanted a cordless vacuum for quite some time now, mainly for doing the stairs and the car or for whizzing under the table after the kids have eaten. Yet, whilst I’ve loved the idea of the convenience, I’ve never felt I could justify spending in the region of £300 to make it easier to vacuum the stairs.
I didn’t realise what a game changer a cordless cleaner could be.
The first few times I used the Shark Duoclean, it seemed to fill up really quickly and I was constantly outside emptying it into the dustbin. Whilst this is a super simple procedure – it was a pain to be doing it before I’d even finished cleaning a room. I commented to Dave that whilst I loved the ease and power of the Shark Duoclean I really couldn’t see it being able to replace your normal cleaner, he responded that it’s too expensive not to. And I had to agree.
However what I’ve found over time is that the vacuum was only filling up so quickly because my floors were filthy (the shame) – a combination of my Dyson not being as effective as I thought and me just not cleaning the floors often enough. The more I use the Shark, the less there is for it to pick up and the longer I can clean for. My floors have never been so clean.
Because the Shark is so easy to use and so effective, I find myself whipping it out several times a day and spot cleaning – under the dining table, where the kids have had a snack in the living room, by the front door when someone has tramped in wearing muddy boots. Instead of doing one big clean once a week I’m doing little bits all the time and keeping on top of it.
Since we’ve had the Shark cordless vacuum, my Dyson upright has remained in its cupboard. I’ve simply had no need for it.
Having thought that the Shark would mainly be used for cleaning the stairs and the car – it has quickly turned into my go to cleaner. Because it’s so compact and folds down to be really tidy, I tend to keep it in the kitchen on charge which means I can just grab it and whizz round while I wait for the kettle to boil – so much easier than having to drag the comparatively heavy Dyson out of the cupboard, plug it in, and push it around the room. Essentially it means I vacuum far more than I’ve ever done because it’s so easy and as a result my floors are cleaner than they’ve ever been, but without it feeling like I’m doing any more work. If anything it probably feels like less as it’s just five minutes here and there.
Of course as I had expected, the Shark Duoclean is an absolute godsend for the stairs and the car. I absolutely hate vacuuming the stairs – dragging the heavy vacuum cleaner up the stairs, balancing it on a step and then having to stop half way to plug it in upstairs as I’ve run out of cable . . . all that drama is banished with my cordless Shark. What I would say is that the handheld section of the Shark is pretty heavy as a result of containing the battery, so by the time you’ve given the stairs going over you can definitely feel it in your arms but it’s still a bazillion times easier than trying to clean the stairs with a standard upright vacuum.
I’ve never been a fan of hauling my upright vacuum cleaner out into the street to clean out the car – it’s cumbersome for a start. Previously vacuuming the car has tended to involve a trip to Morrisons instead but aside from faffing about making sure you’ve got the right money for the machine, the cleaner doesn’t really pack much of a punch so whilst it does do the job, it takes a lot of effort on our part. Using the Shark means that we can clean the car out easily and quickly – no need to find an extension lead for the upright cleaner, or struggling to reach right into our huge boot. The Shark gets the job done effectively and in minimum time – meaning of course that it gets done more often and therefore remains cleaner . . . can you see a pattern here?
The Shark features DuoClean Technology which means that rather than a single brush roll, a DuoClean vacuum has two unique rolls that work together to remove dust and dirt from both hard floors and carpets. Rather than having to faff about changing heads, you can swap from hard flooring to carpet at the push of a button. The settings for hard floor or carpet, as well as a battery saving or full power option – are easily accessed on the hand unit with your thumb so can be changed quickly as the need arises.
You would expect that being battery-powered and so small that perhaps the Shark would lack power but this really isn’t the case – I was really surprised to find that in fact it packs such a punch that on carpet it practically pulls itself along.
Although the Shark does come with a number of attachments I find that for the majority of the jobs I need to do, I simply swap between the main floor cleaning head or the nozzle. The rest of the attachments are stored away in a cupboard. (This is probably one place where the Shark falls down for me, having lots of bits to find a home for – on my upright Dyson, all the attachments are stored on the cleaner itself)
As I’ve mentioned we tend to keep our Shark Duoclean cordless vacuum plugged in and easily accessible in the kitchen for spot cleaning however the removable, rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries mean that rather than being fixed to one charging station like other cordless cleaners, Shark’s battery can be charged in situ on the vacuum or removed and charged anywhere you like in your home which just adds to the flexibility. You don’t need to find a special place to store or charge your Shark, it will live wherever you want to put it. (The added bonus of the battery being removable is that you can purchase additional batteries which should curtail any frustrations over limited battery life – though as I’ve said, now that my floors are much cleaner anyway, this is no longer an issue for us – it is plenty for a quick whizz round the house, and to be honest I usually use it on full power and still get done what I want to.)
The quick release extended reach wand means curtains, light fittings or a persistently cobwebby Velux are not a problem for your Shark cordless cleaner.
My new Shark cordless vacuum cleaner has honestly been a game changer. It has genuinely revolutionised the way our floors are cleaned – and this is no bad thing. I’ve honestly never vacuumed so much in all my life, it’s no longer a chore and in fact the Shark is so easy to use that Ben has taken up helping me too!
*We were sent the Shark free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own. This post contains affiliate links.*
It’s Tuesday afternoon, shortly after lunch, Amy is in bed and I’ve got an hour or two to crack on and get some work done. Mostly this is a time to write, to catch up on blog admin and edit photos. This is often to the detriment of the housework. I’m never sure how to class my work situation – am I a stay at home mum, a work at home mum or am I neither of these because I actually teach part time? Any which way you look at it; between my supply work, looking after three children and writing this blog my life is busy.
Our house is generally pretty clean but it’s rarely tidy. Anyone who visits us will be familiar with the cluttered kitchen surfaces or the dining room piled high with stuff. With three kids and a dog along with a general lack of storage, it’s a constant battle to keep things where they should be. Ben and Chloe are getting much better at tidying up now and we are starting to assign them set tasks, for example it’s now Ben’s job to wipe the table down after every meal.
It can be hard to prioritise my time – should I be cleaning, washing, writing, sitting on the floor doing jigsaws with Amy, reading books with Chloe or building Lego with Ben? I try not to write when the kids are around, though I do often check my social media and send emails. Blogging is generally saved for when they are sleeping and I can concentrate. Washing, cleaning and ironing? These are all things I do whilst they’re playing or watching tv. Sometimes I feel guilty that I’m doing stuff like that when I could be playing with them but then I remind myself that they need those clean clothes and clean home to live in and it’s also setting a good example to them for doing these things themselves one day.
At the moment Amy is very demanding of my attention. She likes to be near me, to cuddle, to be picked up, to climb all over me. If I’m trying to tidy in the kitchen she will follow me around saying “Miss you Mummy, you sit down, love you all day Mummy” until I sit on the sofa with her. Of course the moment I do sit down, she’s off to do something else. She just wants me to be near by, so she can see me and talk to me. I find myself saying “Just wait a minute love, Mummy’s got to do her jobs” but then I have those moments where I realise she isn’t going to want this forever, there will come a time where she’s more than happy to leave me to clean the kitchen and iron because she’s all grown up and doesn’t need me to play with her any more. I sit down. I cuddle her. I let her make me cups of tea and bring me dinner from her kitchen in the playroom.
Today I haven’t had to make any of those decisions. Today Fantastic Services came and did all my cleaning jobs for me. During the three hours that they were here they have cleaned, scrubbed, polished, mopped, tidied, wiped, hoovered and even washed up.
I’ve never had someone in to do the cleaning before so I was unsure what to expect and I must admit I was a little nervous. Would I feel comfortable having someone in my house? Would they do a good job?
The booking experience was simple, a quick phone call to discuss timings, to check the parking situation outside our property and also to check my priorities for the clean followed by a confirmation email explaining what I should expect from the cleaners on the day.
Bang on the allotted time Alex arrived at my front door and introduced himself. He carefully put on blue over shoes to protect my home before asking me to show him around the house and talk to him about what I needed doing. I had mentally prioritised my bathroom and kitchen and explained that I really wasn’t bothered if they didn’t do anything in the bedrooms as they weren’t particularly tidy and only really needed a dust and hoover anyway so I was happy for Alex and his cleaning partner to focus their attention elsewhere. Alex was keen not to miss the rooms out and explained they would still hoover and dust if that was OK with me. Once I had finished showing him the rooms they got on quickly, bringing their equipment in from the car and making a start on the bathroom and kitchen as these were the rooms I had highlighted as being the most important.
I wasn’t completely comfortable being in the house whilst Alex and his partner were cleaning – mainly as I just didn’t want to get in their way, especially with Amy at home. Amy thought Alex was wonderful and was keen to chat to him so I felt I should probably get her out of the way. We took ourselves off for a cheeky hot chocolate and a bit of window shopping which was a lovely way to spend our Tuesday morning, especially knowing that someone was cleaning our house for us! I must admit it felt a little strange going out of the house leaving behind people I’d never met before – it does rather go against your natural instincts!
Amy and I were able to take ourselves out for a cheeky coffee date and come back to a clean and tidy house. When we got home the Fantastic Services cleaners were about two thirds of their way through our allotted time. The kitchen was sparkling – our high gloss cupboard doors, which are the bane of my life with smudges, smears and finger prints are now streak free and shiny. All the surfaces had been thoroughly cleaned and it was clear that things like the toaster had been moved to be cleaned underneath rather than just quickly wiping around them. Any bits and pieces which had been left in the kitchen had been carefully arranged and tidied up into a neat pile to allow me to put them away quickly later.
Our bathroom is a notoriously dusty room, I think it comes from a tiny gap in the wall which is awaiting an extractor fan. Today, however it’s bright and sparkly right down to the silver tile trims. The floor isn’t quite up to the standard of the rest of the room, I’m not sure if it was missed completely or if it just dried funny and needed an extra wipe once the job was done.
The bedrooms, which I hadn’t really expected to be done within the time, have all been hoovered and polished including the mirror in our bedroom. Even the beds have been made and the children’s toys picked up and put neatly on the window sill.
The living room and dining room were the last to be done and as such probably suffered a little from the time starting to run out – at first glance they’re pristine, the mirror is clean and streak free, the perpetually dusty tv stand is now clean and shiny. On closer inspection some of the picture frames haven’t been polished but as I say, I think this is more due to a lack of time than poor workmanship. I was really impressed that the sofas were pulled out and cleaned underneath as this could so easily have been missed!
Over all I’m absolutely thrilled with the service provided by Fantastic Services. Three hours of cleaning by Alex and his partner has cleaned much of my house to a higher standard than I would ever have time for myself – it would have taken me at least a full child free day to clean as thoroughly and effectively. And, more than just the clean house, they’ve given me time. Time to spend with the kids, to get my work done or to sit on the sofa in peace.
The three hour clean we have experienced today would have cost £79. I particularly love that, unlike other local services I’ve researched previously who insist on a regular booking for a minimum time, Fantastic Services offer a one off cleaning service so that you don’t have to commit. Just every now and again when you’re time poor or have a spare few quid, you can book in as many hours as you like and just prioritise the jobs which need doing. If at the end of your time there’s still work to be done you can even extend your booking for an additional fee. Would I have them back? Absolutely.
Should you wish to try out Fantastic Services yourself I’m able to share with you a special discount code – use Colette10 to receive £10 off your first service (Min charges apply. Subject to availability and area coverage. This code cannot be combined with other offers and discounts)
*Disclaimer – We were provided with a one off three hour cleaning service from Fantastic Services free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*